Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, yet for some, home may be a limiting place to be. While many Iowans are homebound, these past two years saw a sharp increase in people experiencing hesitancy around leaving their homes for risk of their health. Libraries responded to the forced and self-imposed home rules by pouring resources into amplifying digital databases and digital libraries, giving access to thousands of resources with a library card and click of a button.
Though creating more opportunities for screen time may feed into the ever-growing concern of our society losing the human connection, libraries are still very much reaching out and connecting with people face-to-face. Once such program that existed well before the pandemic and continues to thrive is our Home Library. The idea of a Home Library or Home Delivery Service is to extend a library’s collection to community members who are not able to physically visit the library for a variety of reasons (long-term illness, injury, old age, etc.).
The Burlington Public Library’s Home Library Coordinator, Bethany Luttenegger, emphasizes the importance of this service by saying that, “this program is about love, joy and in a sense, family.” Bethany is intentional and mindful when selecting library materials for the Home Library’s monthly deliveries, using her relationships she has built with these patrons and selecting items according to their likes and dislikes.
“I do my best to visit each person that joins the program to get to know them so that I can better pull items for them. We often end up talking about anything and everything.”
This relationship-first mentality that Bethany uses to drive her library work is a fabulous example of the pivot that libraries are making in order to remain relevant in the coming century. To look and move towards the future with a people-centered model is going to be what keeps libraries relevant in the tech-driven future we’re zooming towards. Librarians no longer manage collections of books, but manage collections of relationships; connecting people with organizations, with other people, with digital resources, and yes, frequently with books. While shelves of books, physical or digital, will most likely remain a staple in successful libraries of the future, librarians who focus on people and a human-centered approach will be the ones to thrive.
“My favorite conversations are about what Burlington was like before I was born. I have gotten to hear so many fantastic stories from so many people in our community that often feel like they have been forgotten. I have learned so many things from these wonderful people.”
An important factor to keep in mind with being people-centered, is that we rely heavily on our past in order to move towards the future. Creating connections and holding space where our elders can share what this town, this country and this world was like 50, 80, 90 years-ago builds stronger ties between the generations and tethers our community to the rich soil of the past so that we can move forward mindful of those that paved the way for us to be here today.
“There have been several surprising connections that I have made. I ended up meeting my dad’s grade school science teacher, and a lovely woman who used to hang out with my grandpa and his brother when they were kids. I have lost all of my grandparents since becoming Coordinator of this program, and feel like I’ve gained many.”
Bethany is not alone in supporting this library service; she works in tandem with a team of volunteers who dedicate several hours every month to help deliver library materials to patrons in addition to providing company and conversation. Home Library embodies the spirit of a truly community-based library supporting the community in a very tangible and impactful way.
The BPL’s Home Library consists of four routes that weave throughout town serving nearly 40 patrons. This past year over 2,000 items were checked out and delivered, along with countless meaningful connections and moments of joy. In her five years of working at the BPL Bethany has come to love and cherish this service.
“I love my co-workers, this program, my volunteers, and the wonderful patrons that I serve. I wouldn’t change anything about these past five years. In the new year to come, I can only hope that this program will change and grow for the better.”
As 2022 comes to a close and we reflect back on the past 12 months, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the library team I work with and the vision that we share. The Burlington Public Library creates opportunities for all people to connect with others, to learn about the world around them, and to imagine the futures before them. Over the past year we have connected with the community in the library and beyond - in our beautiful parks, at the Capitol Theater, at community events, in the hospital, in the schools, out and about on the Bookmobile, and in people’s homes.
It has been a pleasure to connect, learn and imagine with you this past year, and to watch our library team, and library teams across the area, think outside of the box and get outside of the library to meet people where they’re at.